School superintendent promises investigation

At least a dozen children were injured Thursday morning when a school bus collided with a sports utility vehicle at Highway 395 where Riverview Drive becomes Pinenut Road.

A preliminary accident investigation said Kristine B. Hughes, 37, of Gardnerville and six children in a Ford Excursion were struck in the intersection by a Douglas County School District bus taking children to Minden Elementary School.

The accident occurred at 8:34 a.m. and dozens of emergency personnel responded to the scene.

"The bus ran the stop light," said Gina Greenwood who witnessed the accident.

"I didn't hear brakes on the bus until after the impact. The impact turned the Excursion 180 degrees and it rolled back toward the northwest corner and stopped."

Superintendent Carol Lark said there will be a full investigation of the accident.

"Our responsibility is the safety of our children," Lark said. "I went to the urgent care and saw the parents there supporting each other. It's what a good community does. My hope is that all will have a full recovery."

Six children from the school bus were injured, none seriously, with at least one child released from Carson Valley Medical Center by noon Thursday.

The bus driver, Louis Bergandi, 68, of Minden was not injured.

The Ford Excursion was stopped at Pinenut Road to make a left turn onto Highway 395. When the signal changed, the driver of the Excursion proceeded into the intersection and was struck on the driver's side by the northbound bus, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Greenwood, a painting contractor from Gardnerville, was on the way to work and was stopped at Pinenut Road waiting to cross Highway 395 to Riverview Drive. The Ford Excursion was next to Greenwood in the left turn lane to go south on Highway 395.

Greenwood said after the bus struck the car, she pulled her car off the road and ran across the highway and got to the Excursion before it stopped rolling.

"I didn't look left or right," she said. "I ran toward them and all I saw was blood. It was just a scary sight to see, kids screaming, 'help me, help me.'

"The mom said to me, 'I saw him coming and there was nothing I could do - it was like slow-mo,'" Greenwood said.

"It was the ugliest thing - one kid was holding his face. Basically three of the kids were pretty badly hurt."

Chief Bob Spellberg of Gardnerville Ranchos Fire/Rescue said people were already out of the SUV when they arrived.

"There was blood on the driver and blood on the kid in the car seat," he said. "The kid in the car seat was one with the car before the guys pulled him out," he said about using the Jaws of Life to extract one child from the vehicle.

Three children from the SUV, Hunter Hughes, 3, Dawson Hughes, 7, and Simon Dewitt, 9, were taken by helicopter to a Reno hospital where they were listed in good condition, according to the highway patrol.

The other passengers in the Ford Excursion, Hailey Hughes, 9, and Charlie Dewitt, 9, and Kristine Hughes were treated at Carson Valley Medical Center in Gardnerville and released.

Two of the children from the bus were taken by ambulance to Minden Urgent Care and four were taken to Carson Valley Medical Center. All were treated and released.

The remaining children were transported to school on a second bus.

"All the kids in the bus seemed to be OK on first triage. Nobody was hurt," Spellberg said. "But on the second time around kids complained of leg pain, neck pain, tummy pain."

Spellberg attributed the fast response to an ambulance that was already en route to Ruhenstroth and said there's usually a number of law enforcement and rescue personnel ready to respond to emergencies.

"Everywhere I looked, there were off-duty guys and volunteers. It was a good mix - we're all a team," he said. "In this Valley, when you call for help, we get there as soon as possible.

"You do what you've got to do. It was a good thing it was a big car."

The accident is under investigation by the Nevada Highway Patrol and no citations have been issued. Witnesses are asked to call the highway patrol at 688-2500, ext. 2.


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